Last week I shared the second draft of my story, so that it would all be in one, tidy place for future reference. Today I’ll start revising it, and I feel a bit daunted by the size of the task. 8,720 words is a lot to get through, enough that it would be hard to read the entire thing in a single sitting. Thus far I’ve been reviewing it in fragments, but at some point I need to step back and take in the entire thing all at once.
But after taking a cursory glance, I’m not sure that now is the time to plow through the entire piece. There’s still enough mistakes that I can’t help but get hung up on them as I real along. So I think I’ll continue taking it piecemeal for now, polishing the individual sentences and paragraphs until I can read through them without hitting any speedbumps that take me out of the story.
I realize that this approach might seems backwards, I’ll be correcting the surface details before getting to the underlying structure. I just don’t see how I could do it otherwise at this point.
Clearly I’m not entirely sure of what I’m doing here. Revising a story utilizes a lot of skills that I haven’t developed as well as others. But that’s the whole point of this exercise: to get practice in the areas where I’m still inexperienced. Maybe I’ll change my process when I understand it better, but for now I’ll just go with what feels best and course-correct as needed.
So, without further ado, it’s time to get my hands dirty. I will be making numerous little edits as I go, and included bolded paragraphs to discuss wherever I made a more substantial change. Let’s get to it!
Well, right off the bat, I’m having some issues with the first paragraph. Very often I have a specific mental image for a setting, but trying to convey that in geometric terms just makes for clunky and confusing text. I need to make the descriptions flow instead. I certainly want to make this first paragraph sing particularly well, given that it is the introduction to my entire story! Here is my updated take on it:
Oscar regarded the sea behind him. The gray of the water below was matched perfectly to the gray of unbroken clouds above. Off in the distance was a similarly gray wall of rain, that bridged the gap between ocean and cloud, so that there seemed to be no separate bodies at all, only one massive volume of moisture. And in that elevated sea there was only a narrowing bubble of air, where Oscar and his trawler were scurrying forward, trying to make land before the wall of rain did. For that rain-wall of rain was no trifling shower, but the face of a much darker storm laying beyond.
That storm had not been expected until later that evening, but it had arrived several hours early, cutting Oscar’s excursion short without so much as a minnow to show for his effort. So there had been fuel and time spent, but nothing gained.
Oscar wasn’t surprised by that, though. Most of the time the ocean yielded just enough for the sailors to pay their way with, but from time-to-time it cut them short. “The ocean giveth and the ocean taketh,” one might say, but also “it taketh slightly more than it giveth,” so that a man grew a penny poorer each day for trying to live by it.
Though sometimes the cost was more than just a penny. Oscar knew better than most that in sudden, greedy moments the ocean took far more than it ought. More than could ever be excused.
That you, Oscar? the voice crackled over Oscar’s radio.
“Yeah, Sam, it’s me.” Oscar raised his eyes to the red-and-white lighthouse in the distance, which cast its broad light into the gray. Sam was their lighthouse keeper, the watchful guardian who never lost tally of each man’s going and coming.
Sorry to hear that, Oscar.
“It’s just how it goes. Everyone else in already?”
All but Harry.
Oscar’s radio crackled static, signifying that Sam had released the mic, signifying that Sam would say no more until Oscar did. Oscar sighed heavily, dropping his eyes from the lighthouse to the long pier below, where each of the local sailors had their permanent station. On the far left was Oscar’s own berth, and as far away as possible to the right was Harry’s. The only empty ones.
Oscar grabbed the mic. “Do you know which way he went?”
Went for mackerel. Around the cape. Probably why I haven’t been able to raise him.
“He woulda seen the storm coming even so.”
“He shoulda made it far enough back by now that we’d already see him.”
Crackling static again.
Sam wouldn’t say it. He wasn’t the sort of person to tell people what they ought to do. He was the sort to let them figure it out for themselves. And what if Oscar said no? What if he said Harry was a fool for having gone around the cape when there was any storm warning at all, and that if he was caught in a gale now that was his own affair? If Oscar said that Sam probably wouldn’t even hold it against him. Sam would know as well as anyone that Oscar had reason enough for it. But Sam would go out himself then. And he would be that much more delayed, that much more in danger of the storm.
Oscar swiveled his head around and surveyed the horizon. Not a single ship in sight.
“I suppose I better go after him,” Oscar rasped into the mic.
If you think that’s best, Sam approved. I won’t blink an eye until the two of you get back.
“I know you won’t, Sam.”
I got nervous when I started making extensive edits to the opening paragraphs, but once I transitioned to the dialogue I felt much more at ease with how the story’s coming long. Hopefully the entire story will go this way: being mostly ready, with just some rough edges to smooth out here and there. I guess we’ll see for sure when I continue things next week.